National Press Club

Military service at home illustrated by hurricane response

September 20, 2017 | By Ken Dalecki |

The top public affairs officer for the U.S. Army told a Wednesday, Sept. 20, meeting of American Legion Post 20 that hurricanes Harvey and Irma helped show Americans how the military serves the nation at home as well as abroad.

Brig. Gen. Omar J. Jones, IV, a Maryland native, West Point graduate and veteran of infantry tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, discussed the challenges the Army and other services face with so few citizens -- about one half of one percent -- serving in the armed forces.

Jones said ordinary soldiers are the Army's best emissaries to the public but noted that the military has become increasing insulated due to its reduced size, the closing of military bases to the public for security reasons since 9/11, a concentration of bases in the Southeast and even a concentration of veterans in select retirement communities.

He said the Army learned during relief efforts during Hurricane Harvey that it had to do more than make officials available to the media. He said greater coverage of National Guard efforts was achieved by offering a variety of stories for the media to select.

Jones said there has been no "peace dividend" since the end of the Cold War because of new challenges. Members of the 1.08-million-member Army, half of whom serve in the National Guard and Reserves, are deployed to 140 countries.

Meeting attendees observed a moment of silence in memory of recently deceased NPC Presidents Don Larrabee and David Hess, both long-time members of Post 20.